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Celebrate New Year in Douglas’s Barn

What a treat for someone!

Do you fancy a memorable week in Douglas’s Barn at the end of the year, seeing out 2010 and welcoming 2011?

We have just learned this evening that the week is unexpectedly available again, having been booked for months by the same couple as came last year and had so wanted to repeat their happy time.

Unfortunately they suddenly find themselves unable to come here after all and we – having turned away goodness knows how many enquiries – are suddenly faced with a prime blank week on offer. What a chance for someone!

Our New Year week this year goes from Wed 29 December until Wed 5 January. The price, all found, is £555; we don’t on principle put the price up from our normal High Season rate for Christmas, New Year or indeed any of our Bank Holidays.

We would normally advertise the fact on our website too, but my laptop has been in a prolonged internet sulk since the Apple Macs arrived and refuses to connect in spite of all inducements. At present the laptop is the only computer from which we can edit the main website, as against the blog which is in WordPress so the only thing  we can do is to tell the world via our blog…

That will all change the minute Jeremy our webman returns home from Spain (next week) and moves the whole website over to WordPress, but, meanwhile, we are left powerless and unable to write a single word on the website.

It will be intriguing to see how long we wait before the week is snaffled up. It is a bit late but there is always likely to be someone who hasn’t found that perfect place yet and Douglas’s Barn might just turn out to be what they were waiting for. Let’s hope so.

Andrew Robinson’s funeral in Parwich

Today was a sad day in Parwich, when over 300 family members, friends, colleagues and neighbours crowded into the church to say farewell to Andrew Robinson, a much loved and respected member of the village who died recently after a short but serious illness.

He had been a successful prep school headmaster, a very talented sportsman, a lay reader in the church here and a committed family man who will be much missed.

Once again in its short life the new village hall was filled to capacity after the funeral when everyone at the service was invited by Andrew’s widow, Rachel, and their family to a delicious tea.

For any of our guests who may have met him or perhaps been to church when he was taking a service, and who would like more information no doubt there will be soon be a much longer piece on the Parwich Blog

Peak Park Perfect

When Simon Tyler of Highlight Media produced our main video a month or so ago, we really wanted to give everyone a flavour of both our barns and their setting, so everyone could have an idea of what they ere coming to in the widest sense.

We ended up having to jettison an awful lot of what we now call ‘footage’ but even so we ended up with a six minute video, which is long by modern standards.

This seemed such a waste, so we came up with the idea of using some of the scenes we had had to cut in the interests of brevity and viewers’ boredom threshold in a second shorter video which would concentrate solely on the barns and their immediate surroundings. It is short and snappy to an extreme.

It is very new, not yet up on our website, but you can take a look by clicking on this Peak Park Perfect link or by going to the Tom’s Barn YouTube channel.

Let us know what you think but don’t embarrass me by commenting on my voice or my delivery. It’s already perpetual cringe for me…

Opening of the new Parwich Memorial Hall

Back at last from all our wanderings but before launching into accounts of Krakow (Bloomsbury meets Krakow in Poland) and Yorkshire I just feel I have to record that the new Parwich Memorial Hall was officially opened today Saturday 25th September 2010 (by the time I have finished this it may be tomorrow!).

The sun shone, the hall was packed with young and old and even – rather unusually –  a ram –  the local Mercian Regiment live mascot which attended, accompanied by his colonel and his handlers.

It will all be recorded on the Parwich blog, where also anyone who is interested can no doubt soon see dozens of photos, mostly taken by John, the official press photographers from the Stunner (Ashbourne News Telegraph) having made his excuses after ten minutes, to attend a rather important football match in Derby…

This most significant day for the village ended with a splendid 60’s evening party in the new hall. All being well you will get an idea from the photos what a truly magnificent, modern and attractive building we have and the amazing thing is that this has been achieved by a small rural community with approximately 500 people on the electoral roll: Parwich and the surrounding hamlets of Pikehall, Alsop-en-le-Dale and Ballidon.

Many many public spirited villagers worked long and hard over a number of years, with great patience and determination to make it all happen, raising the nearly £750,000 in money, grants and in kind needed to do so. It makes one feel very  privileged and proud to live here.

Pottering on the Broads – Report

Safely back from four wonderfully relaxing days on the Norfolk Broads with our very good and very old (as in long standing rather than ancient) friends, Erica and Colin.

We arrived on Monday afternoon to be warned to seek shelter as soon as we took over our cruiser ‘Glittering Light’ from the Herbert Woods boatyard at Potter Heigham. We were advised to stop for the night in a sheltered spot as far out of the (Force 7/8) winds as possible. This we eventually managed to do, but the trouble was everybody else had been given the same advice so it took some time to find a suitable resting place.

Having survived remarkably peacefully the gale force winds on Monday night, Tuesday dawned so still that sailing was out of the question. Thereafter we experienced every type of weather apart from hail and snow – pouring rain, drizzle and seriously warm sunshine when the Factor 50 came into its own.

We had a sail on Barton Broad, but mostly were simply pottering about on the water, stopping occasionally to walk or  explore, and enjoying the flights of geese over the water, herons and kingfishers (but no otters). Everything is wonderfully peaceful and quiet, particularly when any speed over 4MPH is over the top.

We had the odd drink in a pub and enjoyed some excellent food cooked in the fairly restricting galley where we longed for some of the Tom’s and Douglas’s Barn kitchen utensils; we did not even have a wooden spoon, but we coped successfully in a fairly Heath Robinsonish, making-do way.

Some raucous games of Oh Hell! were played, and many reminiscences shared. So nothing too dramatic and the whole a very happy experience for us all.

Boating on the Broads and Art Exhibitions in Poland

We are becoming rather excitingly nomadic for the next fortnight or so but fortunately the barns are remaining exactly as they always are and everything at Orchard Farm will carry on as normal under the capable hands of 0ur faithful team of supporters – Janet, Debbie and Carol, joined now from time to time by Mary who as well as cleaning like a dream is a whizz at tough jobs in the garden than no one else dares tackle.

Everything here remains reassuringly the same with two exceptions. Unless I can master how to send posts from the Norfolk Broads – and then – even trickier – Poland, the Tomsbarnblog will remain perhaps blissfully silent for a fortnight or so with maybe a brief news update at the weekend. Secondly, we will be able to take bookings as usual but not process card payments until we return – I don’t expect that will worry too many people either.

We will still – signals in Norfolk and Poland permitting –  be in email and mobile phone contact.   So, if you are waiting impatiently to pay, or to read the latest exciting post in the blog, ‘Please ‘bear with us’ as those dreadful recorded telephonic messages repeat interminably.

Please bear with us.

Organic Lunch in a Yurt

You may have sensed by now that we are rather keen on cooking and good food  and probably err on the side of self-indulgence. We get a weekly organic veggie box from Riverford, which we really appreciate, although it must be admitted that at this time of year we also have a glut in the garden  – mainly at the moment of courgettes and beans not to mention plums and soon it will be apples and damsons…

Anyway, we discovered that the Riverford Field Kitchen was coming up to Riverford Stockley Farm in Cheshire to host a series of lunches and dinners in a yurt. We had heard very good reviews of the meals provided and hadn’t ever actually been in a yurt so decided to give it a try. Stockley Farm is perhaps an hour and a half’s drive, but a wonderfully scenic route on a good day ‘over the top’ past the Cat and the Fiddle which is meant to be the highest pub in England. And our experience proved well worth the journey.

The said yurt turned out to be a rather beautiful circular creation with an ash frame. Eighty people sat at ten tables fanning out from the centre where stood a large wood burning stove – which was very definitely not needed today. The main course was chunks of delicious grilled chicken on a white bean and tomato sauce (I am sure there was a more poetic name but I didn’t master that) and numerous plates of quite equally delicious fresh vegetables, potatoes and garlic, carrots with caraway seeds and everybody’s favourite on our table, thinly sliced green beans and Parmesan cheese. All this was prepared in an impressively small field kitchen and served by a very competent and friendly young team who really made one feel they were genuinely enjoying serving us.

The puddings were almost literally to die for: extremely rich chocolate brownies,  Eton Mess with blueberries and great chunks of meringue, and a plum clafoutis, light as a feather. The last was a new one to all on our table, but everyone made a mental note to try it out.  Seriously good coffee followed, then feeling very well-fed and somewhat sleepy we wended our way home. There was a lot of (all organic) wine and beer on sale, but because of the drive we steered clear of that.

Extra ‘Little Extras’ and a Hungarian Goosedown Duvet

Technological excitements may be all right for some – for those of us poised here at the very nerve centre of the barns at Orchard Farm for example – but may be of little immediate interest or benefit to anyone else.

By chance, after a long-awaited trip to London to see Ruthie and Nick we do have  some more obviously useful practical purchases to add to the list of what you can expect  when you stay here. Firstly, stung by a guest’s admittedly only semi-serious comment about the lack of a bean slicer each barn can now boast a very modern-looking model  from Divertimenti in Marylebone High Street!! It wasn’t immediately  clear how one is even meant to use it but I am assured they do what they’re meant to.

On a more serious note, we have bought each barn a set of (quite tasteful) plastic picnic-ware from John Lewis for barbecuing and  meals outside; we felt they would be much lighter to carry in and out, and less likely to break if dropped while doing so.

And finally, on an even more serious note,  we have bought a Hungarian goose down duvet for our guests in each barn. In case anyone is feeling we are going over the top, they were (very) reduced in the Duvet & Pillow Warehouse August online sale;  we have one ourselves which we bought last year and it is brilliant – wonderfully warm and light – indeed lighter than the proverbial feather so I hope they will be enjoyed. Of course, we will still have a choice for those with feather allergies or that simply prefer a synthetic duvet.

That’s all the excitements  for the moment.

21st Century Web Technology Advances for Orchard Farm

Hardly a day passes without our realising afresh how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful spot; but we are fortunate too in many less obvious ways. There is a lot of support available locally for SMEs – small to medium businesses – and the tourism industry too, in the form of training and business advice, and even sometimes, funding.

John and I put in a funding application recently, having successfully undertaken three day-long eBusiness IT workshops, to upgrade our computer systems  and improve our web activities. To our delight we heard today that we have been successful, and thanks to the East Midlands Development Agency and the EU we will receive 50% of the cost of revamping ourselves  IT-wise. What excitement!

This means we can ask Jeremy Brough, our web man, to upgrade our website so that it will be much easier for us to manage ourselves and to that end we are each ditching our ancient PCs (I use a laptop at present) in favour of an Apple iMac each! John for his photographic work and me for all the office work and managing the Tom’s Barn and Douglas’s Barn website, and – all being well – eventually editing short videos we hope to make with our new camcorder also on the shopping list.

We are also arranging some Social Marketing training so that we can smarten up our at present very minimal use of  social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube.  Whatever one thinks of them it certainly seems to be the way forward these days – so watch this space as they say…!


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